On Acting And Finding a Character

Image from the novella cover

Image from the novella cover

In October I was cast in a show that opens this week at Strike Theater (Get Thee Behind Me Santa: The Musical!). I've been performing, writing, directing, stage managing, and doing some acting since 2012. Of these I've had the least number of opportunities to act. In scripted shows this will be my second ever role on stage. It's thrilling and daunting at the same time.

As someone who is typically on the production side of creating theater I don't always think of the process actors go through to find a character. As a writer you have a strong idea of the character when you are putting it on the page. As a director your job is to help the actor find the character you want to see on stage. And finally actors have to find that character in their own way. When it works you have this wonderful collaboration of a writer's words, director’s vision, and actor's skill. If a performance is off one or all of these things doesn't work. When you think about this elaborate game of spinning plates it makes wonderful theater all that more impressive, and any theater an accomplishment.

My own journey to find the character I'm playing has been the most challenging experience of my acting journey. The character is a “soft-boiled” detective; gritty, serious, and too fond of drink. The character shares very little of my own personality and behavior so I really have to act my butt off to make it work. The biggest challenge has been toning down my own goofiness while playing the character. The play is a comedy and I find myself going to goofy as a default or a defense. It feels comfortable and natural for me, but it doesn't work for the character. This fight against my own natural inclinations of personality is the very core of acting. Denying your true self to become someone else.

I wrote this as during the last few days of rehearsal I find myself finally finding the character and become comfortable in someone else's skin. It's a process I've enjoyed and given me better perspective on the process of creating a play. At the end of it, there will be a show everyone involved is proud of. My journey has been greatly helped by a director has guided me through the process and a talented cast of actors who have let me play of their characters to tell this story. I know this process has taught me a ton and I will come out the other side a better actor, writer, and director thanks to the experience.

Get Thee Behind Me Santa: The Musical! opens Thursday, November 29th at the Strike Theater. Based on the comic fantasy novella by humorist and internationally touring storyteller phillip andrew bennett low, adapted for the stage by playwright Joey Hamburger of Sheep Theater (Best Theater Troupe, City Pages 2018), featuring original songs by Pablo Jones, and directed by Derek Dirlam of the Condundrum Collective. Also featuring Jim Christianson, Kyle Dekker, Theo Ebarb, Al Fiene, Kirstin Nelson, and Jennifer Rathsack!